Lion Kim explains to freelance writer Evan Rothman what he learned and what it meant to win the 2010 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship last summer at Bryan Park Golf & Conference Center in Greensboro, N.C.
What’s funny is the week before the Publinx, my dad and I were talking about how it’s tough to love the game and have the drive to work hard when you’re not seeing results. I was pretty down. Even though I’d been consistent, I hadn’t won a tournament in seven years. If you’re not winning tournaments, it’s no fun. My dad and I were discussing how, if golf isn’t what I want to do, I need to figure out what I want to do after college. The win took me from zero confidence in my game to having a full commitment to playing golf in the future.
(On the seven-plus hour weather delay)
The seven-hour rain delay in the finals was the turning point for me. I took a few naps, listened to my iPod, talked to my parents and read a few pages from To Kill A Mockingbird for class. It all kept me relaxed and loose.
(On the other players engraved on the trophy)
Trevor Immelman’s name leaped out at me on the trophy. He’s a major champion now, a Masters champion. To realize a major champion is on that trophy, it’s humbling to see my name on there, and an honor.
(On playing the final hole after official sunset)
How do you putt in the dark? Use your feet for feel and just commit to whichever line you pick.
(On his role models)
I started golf in 2000, the year that Tiger was absolutely dominating. But I looked up to Zach Johnson. We have the same instructor, Mike Bender, and I’ve known Zach from when he was on the mini-tours. We have a pretty similar game—and now he has a green jacket.
(On his unusual first name)
Kim is a very popular last name, like Smith here in America. My dad wanted my name to stick out a bit. Lion Kim sounds similar to Lion King, and it’s very easy to remember. I’m sure he was thinking about Tiger Woods, too, but he didn’t name me thinking I’d be the next Tiger Woods. He’s smarter than that.
(On his desire to be the best)
My dad has told me many times that no success comes without hard work.
If golf is your dream, never give up on it.